We can all picture the scene from a movie or television show. A person lays on a couch, feet propped, and arms slouched and unravels their entire life story to another who stoically sits rigid in a chair, clip board in their lap and pen dangling between their hand and mouth, with a bamboozled look on their face. This is the image we have of counseling and the tales we hear from the counseling room far exceed the image. The long referred to visit to the “shrinks” office where you hear all about what’s wrong with you and nothing about how to fix it. So often we hear that someone went to counseling for years and gained nothing from it, so why go?
One of the most impactful reasons to see a counselor is the simple term of validation. To be validated means to be heard, understood, and reassured. To hear another living and breathing soul say to you “yeah, that sucks” or “I can’t believe how hard that was for you.” We have all had the days when we don’t feel like we can make another decision, or take another breath, or possibly have another task thrown upon us, wouldn’t it be nice to hear in that moment “I feel for you, that sounds dreadful.” Ahhh, the breath of validation.
But, therapy/counseling/shrink sessions whatever you call them aren’t just meant to make you feel like your struggle is valid. Counseling should also to help you see beyond your struggle and allow someone to help guide you or witness you through it.
My approach to counseling takes on a bus analogy, I heard many moons ago. As a “client” (such an official word) you are the driver of the bus. At start you may not be or feel ready to drive the bus but that’s when you hold the map. When you are ready to start taking lead, I will hold the map and direct you, but in the end, the goal is that you are driving the bus and I’m just a passenger along for a short part of the ride. You are the expert to your life and I only know what you have shared with me, so it would make no sense for me to tell you what to change, how to change it, and when to change it. As the expert, these are all decisions for you to make. As a therapist, I am tasked with helping you stay focused, give an alternative perspective, and any additional insight I may have from my training.
So, why counseling? Counseling is crucial for life changes. Any type of life change – divorce, marriage, new baby, new job, big moves, natural developmental changes, etc – can drastically modify your life, for the good or the bad. All changes that a person endures hold the opportunity for improved quality of life, or decreased quality of life, it’s all in the direction you take. Therefore, these are ideal opportunities to seek the guidance of a trained professional to help with the trajectory of your future. Other times its imperative to get counseling is if you are feeling yourself struggle with a mental health disorder. This can be feeling down more days than elated; feeling anxious beyond butterflies, whatever the cause; feeling like you have no control over your emotions; if you have been reprimanded at school, work, legally, or in your home due to your inability to handle yourself. We are not meant to fumble through life alone and often mental health disorders can feel like the worst most unique way of being alone which is why talking with a trained mental health professional is the best way to get help. Finally, a non-negotiable, in my opinion, is to get counseling if you are or have been feeling suicidal. Again we are not intended to be alone in life, we are not meant to struggle on our own. This world would also be a miserable place without you, no matter how dreadful it feels now it can and will get better to the right supports.
Please reach out, talk to someone!